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Krishnas Teaser Shows How Attack Changed Rogue Disciple: "He Was Never the Same"
The three-part docuseries premieres on Peacock Oct. 24.
When Kirtanananda Swami was suddenly attacked at New Vrindaban in October 1985, everything changed.
The Peacock documentary series Krishnas: Gurus. Karma. Murder., premiering Tuesday, October 24, will explore the rise and fall of Keith Ham, more commonly known as Kirtanananda Swami. The Swami rose in the ranks of the Hare Krishnas after the religion's leader Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada died in the late '70s. But, as the series description teases, Kirtanananda's reign leads the group astray, "leading to accusations of racketeering and murder, and investigations by a West Virginia Sheriff’s Detective, the LAPD and the FBI."
Oxygen.com has an exclusive sneak peek of the series in which those involved in the scandal recall how the religious leader seemingly became a new person after he was struck by a metal pole. “When he got out of the hospital, he was different," Dhruva Gorrick recalls in the clip.
Dhruva's account is backed up by William Ehrlichman, a former guru referred to in the community as Bhagavan Das, who said that the Swami was "never the same." However, the older follower clarified that the Swami was not necessarily different, explaining, "Whatever he was before exponentially expanded into a kind of mishmosh spiritual madness. And his followers just followed him because they're basically minions instead of self-thinking individuals."
And it would seem that the attack made the Swami increasingly paranoid about his own safety, with former Marshall County Detective Sergeant Tom Westfall noting that the guru hired security and bought an attack dog.
"Once he had the dog growl and snarl at me, and he asked me, ‘Well, Sgt. Westfall are you afraid of my dog?'" the West Virginia man recalled. "I said, 'Well, unless they have bulletproof dogs, Swami, I am not afraid of your dog.'"
As Kirtanananda Swami continued to try and maintain his grasp on power, he veered into questionable territory. Followers began to question if Kirtanananda Swami wanted to spread the teachings of his predecessor or simply make money. Eventually, they even began to wonder if their leader could've been involved in the disappearances of Stephen Bryant and Charles St. Denis, two former members who were later found murdered.
To learn more about the controversy surrounding Kirtanananda's leadership of the group, watch all three episodes of Krishnas on Peacock on October 24.